Who will the new Andrew Lloyd Webber be?

You might have seen my post a couple of week’s ago about the rumours that Andrew Lloyd Webber will not be doing a BBC show next year… the subject came up again while I was out at dinner over the weekend, as we tried to work out who would take over from ALW on the panel (assuming that the BBC does a series without him, which I’m say is 99% certain).

We started by thinking about the criteria necessary for the role… our initial list consisted of:

  1. Someone who has been heavily involved in West End theatre
  2. Someone who is a household name, or at least recognisable to most of the audience
  3. Someone with on-screen charisma (remember Barry Humphries in the opening weeks last year!)
  4. Someone with sufficient gravitas to be taken seriously
  5. Someone with no financial interest in the show’s success

Given that list, we actually realised that there aren’t that many people who would be suitable for the role. Had there not been a backlash against the BBC last year, Sir Cameron Mackintosh would have been a good choice, but I think it’s highly unlikely that the BBC would allow the Head Judge to double as the show’s producer.

So, here’s five of the best that we came up with:

  • John Barrowman – they wouldn’t have to go far to find him, but then the producers would need to find themselves another judge with as much charisma as him. He might be too young, and too much of a performer to take on this role though
  • Lesley Garrett – probably ticks the boxes on wider fame, but she has really only made the transition from opera singer to musical theatre star in the last few years, with performances in The Sound of Music and the upcoming Carousel. Perhaps a good addition to the panel, but not experienced enough to be Head Judge.
  • Ruthie Henshall – for West End musical theatre experience, she would be awesome, and would certainly command the respect of the performers. However, like John, she’s probably still too young to take the top job. She’d be a great replacement if Denise Van Outen every decided to give up and concentrate fully on her Sky1 shows
  • Michael Crawford – a slightly left-field one here, but Crawford would almost certainly be very popular with the older members of the BBC audience (of which there are many). He acted on-screen, and he definitely has musical credibility having originated the role of the Phantom of the Opera. I’m not sure what he’s been doing in recent years, but could be a good outside bet
  • Tim Rice – All of the names so far have been performers, but does the panel really need another performer?! How about Lloyd Webber’s very first collaborator, Tim Rice? He appeared briefly in ‘Any Dream Will Do’ as were casting for a show he wrote, and he is also highly experienced. If the BBC wants a non-performer who can keep the seat warm for one series, Rice could be the man.

But despite the evident quality of some of these names, none of them are as perfect for the role as my tip – Michael Ball. He’s popular with the public, incredibly well-known, hugely experienced and true musical theatre royalty.

The only problem I can see if that he’s just extended his time in Hairspray until April, after the series has started, so there might need to be some negotiation between producers to make this happen. If he is available though, I think he would be perfect.

So, what do you think? Do any of these catch your eye? Are there any obviously choices that I’ve missed out?


2 Responses to “Who will the new Andrew Lloyd Webber be?”

  1. 1 Andy - London Theatre Breaks September 23, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Does it have to be someone with musical background or could a veteran straight actor have a go? Remove the pop music and see if there’s any mileage in a reality acting how thus:

    Dianna Rigg

    Felicity Kendal

    Tom Baker.

  2. 2 Beth September 23, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Definitely Michael Ball for me. He was a judge on last year’s ‘Soapstar Superstar’ and gave good constructive criticism without being nasty. He’s also already in the employ of the BBC with his Radio 2 Sunday Brunch programme.

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